Keeping a child from attending public school is a crime. Parents can be arrested and imprisoned for obstructing a child’s access. See, for example, “The Story Behind Kamala Harris’ Truancy Program” (NPR):
In 2019, HuffPost reporter Molly Redden wrote about the families affected by this truancy program, including a Black mother named Cheree Peoples, who was arrested in April of 2013. She came on the show to help explain why this program, which initially launched without much criticism, ended up becoming so controversial, and why it disproportionately affected families of color. Here’s the extended cut of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cheree is a mother in California, and her daughter has a chronic illness. Her name is Shayla, and she has sickle cell anemia, a really painful genetic disease that causes lots of complications. It’s pretty typical for people who live with this disability to miss a lot of school if they’re children. As her daughter missed a lot of school for valid medical reasons, Cheree and the school were in a dispute about how to accommodate and account for those absences.
She was in her house one morning, and the police showed up and handcuffed her. She had time to put on a jacket over her pajamas. And when she was walked by the police out of her apartment where she lived with her daughter, there were news cameras waiting, and she was booked by the police. What she said to me was that she was shocked. She was really floored. And she said to me, “You’d swear I’d killed somebody.” It felt to her like a really excessive show of force for what was essentially a misunderstanding between her and her child’s school.
[Harris] fought for this law, which raised the financial penalty and made it a criminal misdemeanor for parents, up to a year in jail, when their children missed at least 10 percent of school time.
Here in Lincoln, Massachusetts, soon to be home to the nation’s most expensive (per student) public school building, the school bureaucrats decided that students could be excluded from the building (i.e., suspended) if they went away for a Saturday overnight in another state, e.g., neighboring New Hampshire or Vermont, and did not have a negative PCR COVID-19 test result to show. As with the former state governor’s order (one of 69), the test had to be taken within 72 hours of returning to Maskachusetts. So, in a twist that only students of the absurd can appreciate, it was legal to be tested for COVID-19 on Thursday evening in MA as a way of determining if someone was going to acquire COVID by traveling on Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening.
Although the school had a fully remote option, a student kicked out of school for quarantine could not transition into the fully remote option for the period of suspension.
The governor’s order was eventually dropped, replaced by an “advisory”. The school, however, continued with their requirement that, essentially, students be tested prior to departure for weekend excursions. They’d been running a “pool testing” program at the school as well, but the pool test could not be used to meet the travel requirement. So a student who was going to go to Vermont for the weekend would end up needing two COVID-19 tests in the week prior (to see if the student acquired COVID-19 in Vermont?).
Not every family can get organized for these tests nor afford them (we spent a month without insurance and we got billed $750 per child for a test at a “doc in a box” urgent care center). Perhaps a test goes awry and a result is never returned. For whatever reason, a child may end up over the border into another state (almost any of which actually have experienced far less COVID-19 than Maskachusetts; Florida, for example, adjusted for population over 65 is at roughly 1/3rd the MA death rate) and later have no test result to show. Why is it legal to deny this child an education for a two-week quarantine period?
#BecausePublicHealth? Maybe that was a good answer when the governor’s travel order was still in place. Now that the technocrats have rescinded their order, however, what is the school’s justification for denying education to children, a criminal offense if parents had done it?